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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Jamie Oliver, Fifteen, Jamie's Italian

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Jamie Oliver, Fifteen, Jamie's Italian

Overall ranking: 1 (ranked 1 in 2010)

Chef ranking: 1 (ranked 1 in 2010)

Jamie Oliver Snapshot

It has been almost 15 years since a fresh-faced Jamie Oliver appeared on our television screens, and in that decade and a half, his influence on hospitality has been remarkable.

As well as celebrity chef, political campaigner, serial cookbook-writer and the face of supermarket Sainsburys, the past three years have seen Oliver become a major player in the casual-dining market. The Jamie's Italian chain, which currently operates 18 restaurants in the UK and two worldwide, helped Oliver make a profit of £41m last year, with the Sunday Times Rich List estimating his current fortune to stand at £106m. Factor in recent additions, such as London restaurant Barbecoa, party caterers Fabulous Feasts, a new range of wood-fired ovens and the forthcoming launch of a new restaurant chain called Union Jack's - and Oliver's portfolio looks irresistible.

It is, of course, his more philanthropic activities that has endeared the UK public to a once-derided "cheeky chappy" chef. After gaining much acclaim for changing government policy on school meals in 2005, the past 18 months have seen him take his healthy-eating campaign stateside.

Jamie Oliver - Career guide

Jamie Oliver, who was born in May 1975, got his first taste of the hospitality industry at the age of eight, working in the kitchens of his parents' pub-restaurant, the Cricketers in the Essex village of Clavering. He racked up some outside experience at the Starr in Great Dunmow, Essex, before enrolling at Westminster Catering College at 16.

After a stint in France, Oliver landed the role of head pastry chef at Antonio Carluccio's Neal Street restaurant for a year. He then worked as senior sous chef at the River Café for three-and-a-half years, where he was "discovered" in 1997 in a TV documentary on the London restaurant.

So began a successful career in the public spotlight as a TV chef, author and columnist, not to mention an ongoing advertising deal that made Oliver the public face of supermarket giant Sainsbury's.

After five years as a celebrity chef, Oliver chose to give back to the industry when he launched his first restaurant. In November 2002 he opened Fifteen, in Hoxton, north London, alongside the charitable foundation of the same name, which task themselves with helping disadvantaged youths train as chefs. The launch was accompanied by a TV programme called Jamie's Kitchen, which followed the first intake in their bids to become chefs. Further venues opened in Amsterdam, in 2004; and Newquay, Cornwall and Melbourne, Australia in 2006.

In 2005 Oliver initiated a campaign called "Feed Me Better" in a bid to move British schoolchildren towards eating healthy foods and cutting out junk food. Oliver backed up his beliefs with action and worked with Kidbrooke secondary school in Greenwich, south-east London, to wean pupils onto a healthier diet. By July 2005 nearly all the 80 schools in Greenwich using the local council's catering team were serving Oliver's meals.

As a direct result of Oliver's campaign, the Government committed to spend an extra £220m on school meals provision, which was then backed up with a further £240m, which ran until 2011.

His emphasis on cooking healthily continued as he created Jamie's Ministry of Food, a TV series where Oliver travelled to Rotherham, South Yorkshire, to inspire people to cook healthy meals. This was followed by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which saw him going to Huntington, West Virginia, to change the way some American families depend on fast food, and more recently to Los Angeles, California.

Oliver hasn't just used hospitality as a means to help disadvantaged children. His 2011 series Jamie's Dream School saw him branch out from cooking, instead using public figures such as actor Simon Callow and politician Alistair Campbell to inspire teenagers who have struggled in the mainstream education system.

June 2011 also saw the group reveal plans to launch a new brand called Union Jacks but the concept is still in its early stages, with no confirmed sites to date.

His many accolades include an MBE, awarded in 2003, a Catey Special Award in the same year for his work at Fifteen, and being named as the "most iconic British chef of all time" by Olive magazine in 2008.

Jamie Oliver - What we think

Oliver's success over the last 14 years has been about juggling the cooking programmes in which he made his name with constant campaigning for healthier eating habits, all the while showing canniness as a businessman by launching - amongst other interests - a chain of popular restaurants and an ever-increasing range of products.

Three TV series of The Naked Chef, together with years of matey Sainsbury's advertisements, saw Oliver become the butt of many jokes and drew accusations of overexposure. But his next project, Jamie's Kitchen, which charted his six-month struggle to convert a derelict building in Hoxton into a 70-seat restaurant manned by 15 unemployed youngsters who had taken a crash course in cooking, showed the first glimpse of the campaigning Oliver.

The Jamie Oliver Fifteen charitable venture attracted an avalanche of accolades in 2003, including a Catey Special Award and an MBE. Oliver expanded his charitable work in 2004 when he was appointed an honorary vice-chairman for Hospitality Action's Ark Foundation, which addresses alcohol and drug problems in the hospitality industry.

That might have been enough for some people, but Oliver had grander aims, and it was his next TV project that won him serious plaudits from across the country. Jamie's School Dinners produced a domino effect that ended in a £460m Government investment in school meals provision. It is hard to understate what an achievement this was for a mere "television chef", although Bernard Matthews - the producer of the derided Turkey Twizzler - and the battered and bruised board of schools caterer Compass Group at the time would probably beg to differ.

Oliver has not let the fire burn out on the issue and, in April 2010, revealed plans to spend millions of pounds of his own money in a bid to improve food education and meals in primary schools. The healthy-eating champion said he would set aside a percentage of profits from each of his companies to create a fund that would be used to create "a mechanism of food that the schools can bid for".

His desire to help disadvantaged children has also won Oliver applause. The chef, who is dyslexic and failed to shine at school before going to catering college, convinced public figures to teach at a school he created for TV series Jamie's Dream School, in a bid to help 20 teenagers who had grown disillusioned with mainstream education.

He is not just a campaigner, though. Jamie's Italian, which launched in 2008, has grown to 19 sites in the last three years, with a further four planned for later this year. Its success is based on affordable menus and fresh ingredients - a simple but effective mantra for a hospitality business. Jamie's Italian was named Brand of the Year at the 2010 BHA Awards in June 2010. His recent barbecue restaurant Barbecoa was launched with US restaurateur Adam Perry in the City of London in December, while he owns two high-street cooking schools, Recipease, in Brighton and London. There will be few who would bet against the success of his latest venture Union Jacks, as and when the concept is rolled out.

The last year has seen Oliver continue to expand: party caterers Fabulous Feasts launched in spring this year and a new range of wood-fired ovens are now on sale. Meanwhile, his prolificacy as an author continues: in December his cookbook Jamie's 30-Minute Meals became the fastest selling non-fiction book of all time.

Jamie Oliver's ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Jamie Oliver plans second restaurant chain called Union Jack's >>

Jamie Oliver mulls flotation of Jamie's Italian >>

Jamie Oliver picks up Emmy for US TV series >>

Jamie Oliver >>

School dinners and the Jamie Oliver effect >>

Hoteliers dominate hospitality Rich List >>

Jamie Oliver's new cookbook becomes fastest selling ever >>

Jamie Oliver branches out into event catering >>

Jamie Oliver named most iconic British chef >>

Jamie Oliver to invest millions of pounds improving food education at schools >>

Jamie Oliver website >>

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